Exactly two years ago, I was captivated by the story of an industry colleague’s young daughter, who was troubled by how changes in the ocean were affecting whales and their habitats. In search of answers, the now-tween Esther Noche began writing a book with her mother, environmental scientist Janice Lao-Noche.
That story, "Sparky & Benny's Big Home Mystery," follows the quest of two young whales in the Arctic Ocean to understand the threat to their home and it offers ideas for how children can make a difference. When Lao-Noche spoke about the book with the women’s network to which we both belong, she said the story wasn’t originally intended as a lesson about the consequences of climate change, but it morphed into one. "A lot of STEM teachers don’t know how to teach climate change … I’m not reinventing the wheel, I am just putting the wheel together in a different way," Janice said during that meeting.
While seeking potential holiday gifts for my 6-year-old nephew, I began exploring what tales about climate change I might place on his bookshelf. I even asked my LinkedIn network — which suggested oodles of educational materials and curricula. Ultimately, I honed in on material that kids could engage with outside the classroom, with their parents and families. And it occurred to me that the parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents and child-loving individuals in the GreenBiz community could benefit from my research.
So, here are 10 of those titles for your consideration. These are completely subjective and eclectic choices that spoke to me personally — including one classic that I gave my nephew for his first birthday and two tomes written by authors with very famous surnames. I've listed them alphabetically, by book title.
Have additional suggestions? I encourage you to share them on my original LinkedIn query. No textbooks, please!
"B is for Beekeeping: An Alphabet Book"
By Justin Weiss
This primer by a suburban beekeeper from Texas uses the letters of the alphabet to teach children about the role of bees in the food ecosystem and to offer advice on raising and handling hives and their occupants. A portion of the proceeds goes to organizations including Pollinator Partnership, the Bee Conservancy and Project Apis m.
"Climate Crisis for Beginners"
By Andy Prentice & Eddie Reynolds
Remember the "Dummies" series for adults? Anyway, this is a similar idea. At 120 pages, this book introduces children 10 and older to concepts such as greenhouse gases, low-carbon energy, carbon capture and climate justice. The characters are a family who talks through these issues, and the final chapter offers ideas for how youth can become involved.
"Don’t Let Them Disappear"
By Chelsea Clinton
This best-seller for children ages 4 to 8 focuses on 12 endangered species from blue whales to orangutans, and the steps humans can take to save them from extinction, such as addressing habitat loss. Did you know sea otters are on the list?
"The Forest Girls, With the World Always"
By Sissel Waage
A beautifully illustrated book for children up to 7 (and translated into six languages), the story follows "nature-loving" girls who nurture a close relationship with trees as they grow into adults — climbing them, planting them and caring for forests all over the world, from Latin America to Australia. The author, an environmental scientist specializing in biodiversity, has been a contributor to GreenBiz.
By Dr. Seuss
Remember that classic I mentioned? First published in 1971, the story teaches children the dangers of taking the earth’s natural resources for granted. The most famous line: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." I still reread this book myself on my birthday each year.
"Old Enough to Save the Planet"
By Loll Kirby, Adelina Lirius
I mostly stayed away from biographies but I liked the goal of this one: Showing how children and people of all ages matter in the climate movement. It introduces children (from ages 6 to 12) to 12 activists including Adeline Tiffanie Suwana of Indonesia, a founder of youth environmental nonprofit Sahabat Alam, and Felix Finkbeiner of Germany, a co-founder of Plant for the Planet.
"The Thing About Bees"
By Shabazz Larkin
I have a thing for bees and the other pollinators that grace my yard every spring and summer. How could I resist a book described as "a Norman Rockwell-inspired Sunday in the park, a love poem from a father to his two sons, and a tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat"?
"Touch the Earth," "Heal the Earth," "Love the Earth"
By Julian Lennon (with Bart Davis)
Yes, the late musician’s son is the author of a trilogy of children’s books meant to support the White Feather Foundation, an organization dedicated to education about and protecting Indigenous culture. The series features White Feather Flier, an airplane that visits places where children learn about and interact with the earth’s natural resources.
"Water, I Wonder"
By Will Sarni & Tony Dunnigan
Water strategy expert (and GreenBiz columnist) Will Sarni caught the writing bug after his sister asked him to guest lecture to her fourth-grade students — and the kids challenged him on how he explained the topic. This book is meant to help children learn about water sources, risks and the deep connection it has for human health and well-being. "You choose your words a lot more carefully if it’s a children’s book," he told us on a recent podcast.
"We Are Water Protectors"
By Carole Lindstrom
A 2021 Caldecott book award winner, this is the story of an Ojibwe girl who rallies the construction of an oil pipeline — a "monstrous black snake" — that threatens her Indigenous community’s water supply. It’s a tale not just about the vital importance of this resource, but of the power of collective action.